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Swirling Suggestions by Kathy Miller

Republished with kind permission from Kathy Miller.  Kathy has been making soap for over 30 years and has compiled her years of experience on her website, Miller's Homemade Soap Pages (well worth the visit but be warned, you could be there some time.  With huge thanks Kathy, from all the members at Fresholi :o)

Swirling Suggestions by Kathy Miller

Swirling is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are using fragrance oils to scent your soap! I'm not an expert on this technique, but thought I'd pass on a few ideas for you. There are different types of swirls you can obtain...often by accident, but hopefully by design. The thinner your soap is when swirled, the finer the feathering of the swirl will be. Part of this has to do with starting at a thin trace, but also some recipes lend themselves to it better than others. I found that recipes using a fair amount of soybean oil didn't get as thick at trace as the ones heavy on olive. Don't know why. They made a nice feather swirl for me. If the soap gets too thick when you are swirling (sometimes because of a fragrance accelerating trace) you may end up with more of a two-toned soap that doesn't have a swirl throughout. Anyway... there are three basic ways you can swirl (and probably more):

Pour most of base soap into mold, color remaining portion for swirling and dribble it over the base color. Take a spatula or chopstick... whatever, and pull it through the soap back and forth (all the way to the edges and bottom) from one end of the mold to the other. Do this again either on a diagonal or opposite direction.
Good for a deeper mold - take out about 1/4 of the soap at light trace and color with contrasting swirl color. Pour half the base color into the mold, dribble half the swirl color over it, pour the rest of the base color and finish off with more swirl color. Then swirl it. Hope you have time for all this! (Using essential oils would be good!)

Take out the swirling portion and color in a separate small measuring cup. Pour this back over the base soap while still in the pot... mix it slightly to the bottom of the pan and pour into the mold. This is a great idea if you think your soap is going to quickly thicken. This is called "swirling in the pot".

Another idea works well if your soap is going to be thick... like with fragrance oils, or heavy trace. You can mix your prepared colors into sections of the pot gently with the stick blender (on a low setting if you have one). Only mix in a small area of the soap... not pulling in the rest in the pan. You can mix several colors in different quadrants of the pan and then pour it all into the mold with no more mixing. It will swirl itself. My first attempt at this technique can be seen below (the Summer Sorbet batch). This is risky and only for those who have done soapmaking for awhile and can predict the behavior of the scents they are using! Or... it's for the adventurous! :-)

  A nice swirl done at trace with a base recipe rich in soyabean oil

See more beautiful examples at Miller's Homemade Soap Pages

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